Lake Forest teen overcomes challenges to excel
Nina Nissly in her driveway wearing her USA Women's Sled Hockey jersey. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 4, 2013 9:11AM
LAKE FOREST — Nina Nissly of Lake Forest, a senior at Lake Forest High School, was born with cerebral palsy that has affected her eyes and legs.
“Nina has strabismus (crossed eyes), which is very common with children who have CP,” Terry Ann, Nina’s mother, said.
Crossed eyes limit depth perception. To correct that, Nina has had two eye surgeries and wore glasses to strengthen her eye muscles when she was younger.
Nina also has tight calve muscles that makes it difficult for her to walk in a heel-strike position. She has had two surgeries on muscle groups in her legs.
“It makes her walk on her toes. If you do not walk in a heel down position, you run the risk of having spinal and hip issues, spontaneous breaking of the middle bones in your feet — which happened when she was younger — and a host of other orthopedic problems,” Terry Ann said.
Nina began swimming at the age of 8 at the suggestion of her orthopedic surgeon, because swimming is the best exercise for strengthening muscles in a supportive environment.
“The water cushions the entire process. Swimming forces the spine into a straight position, aligns hips, strengthens hamstrings and gastric muscles, not to mention the cardiovascular benefits,” she said.
Nina loves to play sports, including sled hockey, swimming, archery, golf and basketball. She swims on the Lake Forest junior varsity swim team and plays sled hockey for the Falcons with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association.
“The IHSA is now allowing disabled swimmers to compete at the state level and Nina was the first disabled swimmer to represent Lake Forest High School,” her mom said.
Nina speaks highly of GLASA and supports its motto: “Let No One Sit on the Sidelines.”
“They find a way for anyone with any type of disability to play sports. They have all types of adaptive equipment to facilitate them in various sport activities. They are able to show someone that you can do anything and find a way to accomplish just about anything.” Nina said. “I like sports, so I’ll adapt to play.”
Besides being an athlete, Nina is also an excellent student. She hopes to study graphic arts in college next year. Nina also is active in Scouting and has received the Girl Scout Gold Award — the Girl Scout’s highest honor.